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It is crucial that we see that we are not living as if Jesus were present now in his earthly ministry, but after that: after the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the ascension; after Pentecost and the giving of the Holy Spirit; after the gospels and the Book of Acts, which record the launching of the church’s distinctive era and mission. We live after the Old Testament and after the career of Jesus in a third era of redemption, the age of the church before the return of Christ in the consummation of history. “It is for your benefit that I go away,” Jesus told his disciples (Jn. 16:7), and we must take him at his word. . . .

“What would Jesus do?” therefore is the wrong question for Christian ethics. If we keep asking it, moreover, we will keep making the perennial mistakes many have made, such as prioritizing church work over daily trades (“because Jesus gave up carpentry for preaching the gospel”); valorizing singleness, at least for clergy (“because Jesus didn’t marry”); and denigrating all involvement in the arts, politics, or sports (“because we never read of Jesus painting a picture or participating in political discussions, much less kicking a ball”). Instead, “What would Jesus want me or us to do, here and now?” is the right question—or, if I may, Who are we, for Jesus Christ, today?